After Bloghouse in Indianapolis in late June, my motivation for this blog skyrocketed, but as my latest adventure kept creeping up on me, I had too much else to do. In addition to “life”, a week before I left for St. Louis and three weeks in Europe, I still had no idea where I was going for my final week. I changed my plans multiple times, initially planning on visiting Scotland, then Wales, then Norway, and then ended up somewhere else entirely. (Yes, I’m fully aware that an extra week in Europe is the best problem in the world to have.)
While all adventures are important, this upcoming adventure was especially significant to me. This was potentially my final international adventure of this gap year. The plan has always been that when I returned from this trip, I’d start looking for a full-time job. It was also a trip during which everything would come full circle for me, though I didn’t realize it at the time. But some of that is for next month’s recap, so stay tuned.
Posts on 10 Miles Behind Me in July:
- Indiana | The 10 Types of Travelers Who Should Visit Indianapolis
- Chicago | An Untouchables Mobster Tour of the Windy City
- Indiana | A Small Town Girl in Hendricks County
- France | 6 Alternative Ways to Experience Paris
- Indiana | The Best of the Indiana Foodways in Lafayette-West Lafayette
New Jersey & New York
My mornings in early July were filled with freelance work and blogging. My afternoons were filled with sunshine – either on the beach or at the pool two houses down with my neighborhood family. We had a fun fourth of July celebration with tons of yummy food – including a pineapple-mango salsa I made with a recipe I stole from my aunt and homemade chipwiches. My cousin Em came down that weekend to soak in even more sun with us and eat lots and lots of cake. The evenings were filled with seafood on the bay, adventurous walks with Darcy (and the new puppies in the neighborhood), Anne with an E on Netflix, and full moon beach yoga with NJ Beach Yoga.
The next weekend, I drove up to NY for a “baby-naming ceremony” for one of my newest BFFs, the daughter of my former roomie. I caught up with many people I hadn’t seen since before I left the city who all had a lot of questions for me. There were also friends I luckily have seen many times since then who answered everyone else’s questions for me after suffering through my responses several times in a row. They could also probably write this blogpost for me, to be honest.
St. Louis, Missouri
I hadn’t planned on heading back to the Midwest so soon after being in Chicago, Madison, and Indianapolis in May and June. When I left my friends Thuya and Htar Htar in Myanmar last September, it was tough because I knew realistically it would be some time before we saw each other again. I found out they’d be in St. Louis as part of the Big Picture Project right before I left for Ireland, so I decided to fly out and surprise them.
The Big Picture Project is a nonprofit that gives cameras to people who have never had them in countries non-travel-obsessed people may have never heard of. It offers those people a chance to learn photography, to express themselves creatively, and to own their very first photos – something we all take for granted (seriously, how many selfies have you taken this week?). It gives us an opportunity to learn more about how they live their lives and what they think is important or beautiful enough to photograph.
Aside from seeing my friends from Myanmar and my friends from Sundara, the soap non-profit I worked with while over there, St. Louis wasn’t my favorite place I’ve been this year. We stayed near the famous arch, which I got a kick out of, but it was 102 degrees outside both days, making it challenging to explore too much else. We were disappointed by “the best barbecue in town”, though we did enjoy Ted Drewes’ custard. All our Uber drivers warned us to be careful out there and we learned that St. Louis has been named the most dangerous city in America. The next time I do Missouri it will be to visit Kansas City instead (or maybe the Ozarks, home of my latest Netflix binge).
Ireland & Northern Ireland
Unless you are friends with my mom and sister on Facebook, you probably haven’t seen much from our family trip to Ireland and Northern Ireland. I was struggling with wifi in the beginning of the trip and then I decided to embrace it as an actual vacation, something bloggers don’t take very often. (Katie, from Stories My Suitcase Could Tell can relate). I’m sorry if you missed me, but it was truly glorious. I’ll be writing a ton about my trip to what I call the homeland (even though every person in Ireland told me I was American and not Irish), but here’s a sneak peek:
We flew into Dublin and headed straight to Newgrange and Knowth – stone tombs that are older than the Pyramids and Stonehenge, if you can believe it. From there, we drove into Northern Ireland and stayed in adorable Ballycastle on the Antrim Coast. We visited Giant’s Causeway, a few GOT filming locations (because they are beautiful, not because of GOT), and some random hikes off the side of the road leading to surprise cliffs, waterfalls, and castles. We traveled further west, back into Ireland, staying in Donegal, Sligo, and Leenaun, seeing the Slieve League cliffs, Yeats’ grave, Benbulbin, and any other brown sign or stone ruins that we came upon, and listening to live music while drinking pints of Guinness and dining on fish and chips. In Leenaun, we visited the church where my great-grandfather was baptized and stayed at the B&B of the farmer who, 19 years ago, led us to the stone ruins where my ancestors lived. Then came the main event.
We’d known for over a year that there was going to be a family reunion of my dad’s side in Clifden (West of Galway) in July. This reunion was one of the reasons I wanted to take off a full year once I realized that I could travel for more than a few months. We met people we’d known about for years via social media, who were all related through my great-great grandparents, which is as far back as we can go on that branch. There are now 102 great-great grandchildren. I met at least 50 of my third cousins at the reunion, as well as their parents, children, and spouses. The next day, we went on a journey to the stone ruins with everyone else in the family. It was such a special experience, one that I’ll be dedicating a full post to at some point later this year.
With July running out, we only had one more day in Ireland as a family, but I had another week in Europe and would be returning to Dublin before flying back out to NYC. I’m so glad I took that extra time – I’d actually considered switching my flights to fly out with my family when I couldn’t figure out what to do with my last week. That would have been a huge mistake.